When should I book ….?

3 10 2011

Book the church first, then the hall, photographer, and everything else.

I had an interesting discussion with a couple at the Estevan Showcase in September. The couple were getting married almost two years from now, but on a long weekend, and in Regina. Was it too early for them to be booking their vendors, i.e. photographers and the like, now?

My response was this: 1. It’s a long weekend. 2. It’s in Regina. Book now. Right now.

The larger the centre, the longer the queue is to book, especially for the most desireable options. There’s only one Radisson Hotel, for instance. If you want its ballroom, you need to line it up right away.

If you want to book photos at the Legislature, they only allow a handful of couples (couples plus their photogs only) in one hour blocks, on a first come, first served basis.

Since the laws of supply and demand come into play here – limited supply of premium services on a highly desireable day – you need to get ahead of the game, or it will be gone.

Smaller communities don’t have the same pressures, simply because they have fewer people. But they also have fewer venues, and fewer vendors. The above supply and demand law applies. The market also generally fills the local need, but your choice may be limitted.

I personally got married on the May long weekend in 1999 in Preeceville. As soon as we got formally engaged in October, 1998, we booked the hall, church and preacher. We didn’t announce the date until then, if I recall correctly. We also didn’t have much choice in venues, either.

Indeed, there’s a certain order of priority bridal couples should consider when booking venues and vendors. If you can’t get the first few to work, you may need to substantially alter your plans, or change your date. They are:

  1. Book the church and officiant FIRST! No church, no preacher, no religious wedding. Typically, one goes with the other. If it’s already booked, if the preacher is already doing another service on a beach somewhere, you are out of luck. For people who are not picky, this may not be a big deal. But if you plan on getting married in the church you grew up in, its availability, and that of the preacher, is a dealbreaker.
  2. If you are getting married by a marriage commissioner, your options are, by nature, much more open. While some people are very particular about their marriage commissioner, others just want someone to stand at the front and marry them. Less picky equals more options.
  3. The reception hall is next. This is often hand-in-hand with the caterer. If you’re gonna party, you need somewhere to party, or it might be your backyard. Along these lines, if it is an outdoor venue – for either the ceremony or reception, ensure there is some sort of foul-weather backup plan.
  4. THEN start booking your other vendors. These should be done in order of exclusiveness. If there is only one florist in town, better talk to them quick, because they may only take a limitted number of bookings for each day. Ditto for a limo.

These other vendors include, but are not limitted to:

  • Caterer (if not included with the hall, and it’s not your mom and auntie making perogies for the next 4 months)
  • Photographer (okay, I had to put that up there)
  • DJ/live band/Uncle Robert and his fiddle
  • Florist
  • Limousine
  • Wedding cake
  • Rentals (chairs, decorations, etc.)
  • Hair stylist(s)
  • Tuxedo rentals
  • Wedding dress
  • Accomodations for guests (block of rooms at a hotel)
  • Honeymoon suite

As noted above, the more exclusive the venue or service provider, the sooner they should be booked. Many (likely all) will require a booking deposit or retainer, if not payment in full. This is because once they are booked for that day, they will likely be turning away other business from people who did not have as much foresight as you. These retainers are often non-refundable for that very reason, so chose wisely.  

It is for these reasons, when someone inquires about me doing photography for them, the first question out of my mouth is, “What date are you getting married?” You’ll hear that a lot. If the date not open, there’s not a lot I can do for you, other than refer you to someone else and wish you well.


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